China’s India envoy appointed vice Foreign Minister, could boost bilateral ties

The rapid appointment of the outgoing Chinese envoy to India and career diplomat Luo Zhaohui as vice foreign minister in charge of Asian affairs even as he was finishing his farewell dinners in New Delhi is a positive sign for Sino-India ties.

Luo’s appointment was announced on Wednesday and he will take over his responsibilities at the sprawling foreign ministry office in Beijing as India and China prepare for President Xi Jinping’s much-awaited visit in October.

A new momentum is expected to be generated from Xi’s upcoming visit to India and Luo is likely to hold the reins for Beijing in terms of the diplomatic groundwork that’s crucial for such meetings.

Technically, Luo hasn’t been promoted – as envoy to India he was already at the level of a vice-minister – but given a wider range of responsibilities.

Much like vice-foreign minister, Kong Xuanyou – who for example visited Islamabad following the India, Pakistan aerial dogfight in end February — and is now moving on Thursday as China’s ambassador to Japan.

In the coming days, he could also be appointed as China’s special representative for Korean affairs, which was part of Kong’s profile.

There’s little doubt, however, that as in-charge of Asia – besides looking after border issues, maritime territorial issues and consular aspects – Luo brings rich experience and intuition to his new profile.

Chinese experts on south Asia and India told HT that Luo knows the importance – and is a keen student of the gradual evolution – of Sino-India ties; he was in the thick of things during the long military standoff between the two countries near the Sikkim border and was also an intrinsic part of the post-Wuhan bilateral bonhomie.

“I think under Luo Zhaohui as the head of the Asian department, Sino-India ties will improve. He knows a lot about south Asia; he has been posted both in India and Pakistan as envoys. During his tenure in India, he was very active,” Ma Jiali, a long-time India watcher and a director at the China Reform Forum said.

Ma, who knows Luo since the late 1980s, said the diplomat knows about India’s importance to China and has focussed on improving bilateral ties.

“For China, India is very important, both in the neighbourhood and in the international arena. Luo knows that,” Ma said.

“Both he and his wife (diplomat and scholar Jiang Yili) know India very well. During Luo’s tenure, bilateral ties have visibly improved,” Hu Shisheng, director of the Institute of South and Southeast Asian and Oceania Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations said.

“The new reality in China-India ties is that all problems can now be put on the table and discussed. Nothing is put on the shelf. Maybe, Luo Zhaohui will be able to give a push towards resolving the border issue,” Hu added.

First Published:
May 29, 2019 17:16 IST

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